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General Gayety by Leslie Robinson
Love in the jug
by Leslie Robinson - SGN Contributing Writer

The Florida Department of Corrections knows a threat to prison security when it sees one. It works diligently to prevent escapes, riots and . . . weddings.

The department has disciplined eight correctional officers for allowing a Gay wedding ceremony to take place at Lowell Correctional Institution, Florida's largest prison for women.

How comforting that the Florida Department of Corrections stands firm against clear prison perils like drugs, gangs and Lesbian nuptials.

According to The Gainesville Sun, the department's official report on the incident at the Marion County prison states that, "Security staff allowed inmates to perform, decorate and participate in a wedding ceremony."

The date the correctional officers shirked their duty so extravagantly was March 17, St. Patrick's Day. Perhaps Gay leprechauns bewitched them.

The event began about 5:15 p.m. when inmates were freed from their cells to go to a day room. Then the law-breaking took off.

One state-owned bed sheet was converted into a tablecloth. Another became the veil of one of the brides. State-issued Inmate Request Forms in the appropriate color of pink were torn, spindled and mutilated into bows and curls for the table, and state-issued paper towels were fashioned into other decorations.

Oh, the lawlessness. And under the guards' very schnozzles.

The brides exchanged rings made out of human hair and dental floss. I'd say that's the epitome of using what you've got.

The gala celebration wound up at about 6:30. Presumably with onlookers throwing state-owned rice.

For the record, prison rules forbid sex acts or unauthorized physical contact between inmates. The state of Florida prohibits same-sex marriage. And fashion designers consider any woman marrying in prison garb a crime against nature.

Two days after the wedding an inmate alerted prison officials that the event had taken place. A jilted ex, perhaps?

The Florida Department of Corrections leaped into action. Investigators interviewed prisoners and officers. They reviewed a security camera video recording, which showed five officers watching the event. They also seized evidence from an inmate's cell. The hairy ring? A paper-towel bouquet?

The official word is the officers at Lowell Correctional Institution goofed by allowing the inmates to use state property for the occurrence.

Investigators also determined, reported The Sun, that the wedding "was an unauthorized activity in a close-management dormitory, the most restricted living area for inmates," and "allowing the close-custody inmates to gather for the event placed officers at risk."

Apparently the officers didn't think so, but what do they know? They just work with these women every day. Allowing the inmates to put together a homemade ceremony might even have struck the guards as a strategic move to boost the general mood. I assume they'd rather have the residents whipping up flowers than fashioning knives.

But the Florida Department of Corrections is in the business of laying down the law. The department flung it good and hard at those eight correctional officers.

All were cited for failing to report the incident. Several were also found guilty of failing to maintain proper security, along with willful violation of department rules. One officer was fired, one resigned, and six were suspended.

With such serious punishment for such a small crime, I guess officers who commit whoppers, like dealing drugs or shaking down inmates, are immediately hanged in the break room.

In allowing the wedding to proceed, the Lowell Eight were being either benignly neglectful, or compassionate, or practical. The real question is whether the excessive reaction of the Florida Department of Corrections is about a love of rules or a hatred of Gays.

And the newlyweds? The department shipped one of them to another state prison. That is one tough department.

Leslie Robinson lives in Seattle. E-mail her at LesRobinsn@aol.com, and read other columns at www.GeneralGayety.com.
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